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Council wants Ramsey raise tied to better job performance

(Published June 30, 2003)


Staff Writer

D.C. City Council members have asked Mayor Anthony A. Williams to give "high priority and deference" to their desire to link a pay raise for Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to improved job performance.

In a June 25 letter to the mayor, Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp emphasized that "some members of the Council feel strongly about the Chiefís ability to meet these performances prior to receiving a pay increase."

The council is scheduled to vote July 8 on a proposed $25,000 pay raise for Ramsey, which would increase his annual salary from $150,000 to $175,000 a year. Three of 13 council members already have stated their opposition to any raise for the chief. The pay raise is part of a new 57-month contract Mayor Williams and the chief signed earlier this year, but the salary change requires council approval.

Croppís letter to Williams cited four demands to be made upon the chiefís and the Metropolitan Police Departmentís performance by the council. They include greater police visibility on the streets, properly staffing the understaffed 911 system, closing more unsolved cases and paying better attention to the departmentís overall management. Management improvements sought by the council include a reduction in police overtime, fewer officers on extended sick leave or limited duty, and an increase in morale.

Several council members echoed these concerns in recent interviews with The Common Denominator.

Councilman Adrian Fenty, D-Ward 4, who opposes the chiefís raise, said that a great problem lies in community policing. Fenty is confident that the raise will not go through because he thinks the council will respond to D.C. residentsí complaints.

"The community has responded loud and clear that [Ramsey] should do a better job in community policing," Fenty said.

Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-At Large, who also said he wonít vote for the pay raise, pointed to inaccurate information about 911 staffing that the chief provided to the council.

"Itís unacceptable," Mendelson said. "When council has an oversight hearing...itís critical we get honest information and we didnít."

Mendelson cited other problems with Ramseyís management of the police force, such as an increase in crime that he said is contrary to national trends.

Councilwoman Kathleen Patterson, D-Ward 3, who chairs the council committee with oversight of MPD, said she cannot support the pay raise unless Chief Ramseyís performance improves over the next year.

An aide to Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward 7, said that although Chavous doesnít support the pay raise, he does support Chief Ramsey and feels that MPD generally is heading in the right direction. Due to his concern over the low number of officers who patrol D.C. streets, Chavous has proposed legislation that calls for 60 percent of sergeants, lieutenants and officers to be assigned to Patrol Service Areas. Chavous feels that more police patrolling the cityís streets will deter crime and enable citizens to feel more comfortable coming forward to report information about crime in their neighborhoods.

"We will not support a pay raise for the chief until neighborhood deployment becomes a greater part of the chiefís performance package and the chief meets those goals," a spokesman for Chavous asserted.

Councilman David Catania, R-At Large, said his main concern is that the mayor hasnít demanded more from Chief Ramsey.

"My biggest problem is that Mayor Williams hasnít done his job," Catania said in a written statement. "The problem is that we have a mayor who is afraid of the chief."

Other council members expressed non-salary-related concerns about the chiefís new contract terms. Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, R-At Large, said her biggest concern is the length of the contract, which overlaps the mayorís term by one year and three months. If a new mayor is elected in 2006, that mayor would have to keep Chief Ramsey on duty or pay him severance of $175,000.

"I will not support that," Schwartz said. "My concern is that the performance standards will need to be more reflective of the priorities of our citizens and the council, which is police presence in our neighborhoods."

Some members of the police force also have been critical of Ramseyís proposed pay raise. One officer, who wished to remain anonymous, blamed low morale, in part, on deployment changes initiated by the chief that he called "a waste of manpower."

"We still cover our areas, but now we canít do as much patrolling, and we have to stay in one place for several hours at times," the officer said.

Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock said the mayor is "confident that support exists to give the chief his raise." He said the mayor considers the pay raise to be part of the chiefís "management contract," which he characterized as separate from his "performance contract."

Bullock called the pay raise a "modest increase" in salary, which, if averaged over the next five years, amounts to about a 3 percent per year increase. Ramseyís current $150,000 salary is on the lower end for police chief salaries in large cities, Bullock said, and he expressed concern that the District may be unable to retain Ramsey if his pay raise is disapproved by the council.

Kevin Morrison, director of corporate communications for MPD, said that if the pay raise isnít approved, Chief Ramsey may keep his options open as far as moving to a new location, but his intention is to stay in the District.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator